The Yearning by Kate Belle

Posted May 23, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

The Yearning by Kate BelleTitle: The Yearning (Goodreads)
Author: Kate Belle
Published: Simon & Schuster, 2013
Pages: 323
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: Book Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

In 1978, in a small country town, a fifteen year old girl’s world is changed with the newly arrived substitute teacher. Solomon Andrews is inspiring, charismatic, charming and beautiful and she wanted him more than anything else in the world. While he was aware of this shy girl interests he thought it was a harmless high school girl crush; that was until the erotic love letters started coming. He knew he should resist but her sensual words stirred him. First love feels like a great love, a forbidden love.

Kate Belle’s The Yearning is not erotic fiction and it’s not really a romance; this is a book that is hard to put into a genre. Well, in a sense you could categorise this book as romance but it’s a dark romance, a one sided romance; I don’t think there is a genre called ‘disturbing obsessions’ or ‘infatuations’ so how can you put this into a genre? I know, I know, genres are annoying and we should get rid of them all, and just have fiction and non-fiction but as a quick way to identify books, I do like to label a book.

I went into this book thinking it sounded a little like Me and Mr. Booker by Cory Taylor but thought maybe there might be similarities to Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, The Reader by Bernhard Schlink (also books I’ve not read yet; An Education by Lynn Barber, What Was She Thinking? by Zoë Heller and Tampa by Alissa Nutting) but this book managed to surprise me in the direction Kate Belle took with The Yearning.

A rather daring novel, which I felt there was a sense of predictability within the plot; it was exquisite in parts but also awkwardly erotic and sexy in the approach. Fifteen year old Eve’s desires for her new next door neighbour Solomon Andrews starts off as a simple crush but as her obsession with the sexy teacher grows, so does the yearning till it reaches a dangerous level. To me I like to think this is a look at the intensity of a high school crush and the ignorance towards understanding what true love is; in high school you think every crush really is your soul mate.

Then you get the point of view from Solomon Andrews, who is not as despicable as Humbert Humbert; while he comes across as a hebephile, I get the feeling maybe he is just a pansexual and will take whatever he can get. Without going into much thought into the psyche of Solomon I will say he is weak and should know better, he lets his desire to get laid and the feeling of being desired get the better of him. Highlighting the dangers of giving into your desires and also the problems with falling for someone that is bound to break your heart and have a negative impact on your life.

This novel then takes a surprising turn, something similar to The Reader; it shoots forward twenty years. Now Eve’s is about to marry Max even though that yearning for Solomon has remained and her heart still belongs to him. This marriage is very problematic and she never tries; the relationship as husband and wife is a disaster, the sex is not satisfying, she pressures him into children and the list goes on and on. The downfall of the marriage and the link with her yearning for Solomon is clear to Eve from the start and soon became evident to Max as well.

Now I like uncomfortable novels and I really liked how Kate Belle approached The Yearning with the dark romance and desires. I also liked how she created Solomon as a character you end up having a love/hate relationship with, leaving the reader unsure how they should feel about him; obviously you are meant to hate him but you can’t help feeling other emotions towards him. This only get the book so far for me anyway; I got to about the middle of this book, when Max showed up before it went downhill. The first half was new, somewhat exciting and sexy in all its awkwardness but the second half was a real let down. Sure I like how her yearning for Solomon affected her future relationships but I got a sense that this has all be done before. It just felt so predictable and I was no longer surprised. Many people might be alright with this but for me it felt like the book started off strong and then hit a wall.

I really liked elements of The Yearning and ended up hating others, so this leaves me a little confused with my overall opinion of the book as a whole. Much like the genre, I’m not sure just how to rate it, so I’m going to be neutral and give it two and half stars. This book has gotten a lot of positive reviews, so I think this just shows how bitter and cynical I am to give this book a middle of the road rating. If this book sounds like it will interest you, check it out; don’t let me put you off.

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